Scouting Notes | 2021 U17 National Championships: Vic Country vs. Vic Metro

VIC Metro won out in Saturday’s Under 17 Victorian derby, powering away with the last seven goals of the game to defeat Vic Country by 34 points at GMHBA Stadium. The hard-fought contest and exciting bursts of scoring allowed a number of budding 2022 draft prospects to shine, with 10 of the top performers from either side featuring in our Scouting Notes. Each note is the opinion of the individual author.

>> Match Report: Vic Metro def. Vic Country

Vic Country:

By: Declan Reeve

#2 Jack O’Sullivan (Oakleigh Chargers)
22/10/2004 | 176cm | Forward/Midfielder

Predominantly playing across the half-forward line with some stints through the midfield, O’Sullivan impressed with his ferociousness on the ball and opponent alike, throwing himself into the thick of every contest he was around. With pressure forwards worth their weight in gold at the next level, O’Sullivan marked himself as one to watch for the 2022 draft, repeatedly laying tackles or forcing opponents to rush their disposal with his pressure. A really impressive aspect of his game is how quickly he can get up off the ground after being brought down or laying a tackle himself, almost striding himself back up to try and win the spilled ball. Despite standing at just 176cm, he made himself an aerial threat, taking an impressive contested mark on the half-forward line against a bigger opponent.

#5 Oliver Hollands (Murray Bushrangers)
16/01/2004 | 182cm | Balanced Midfielder

Like his older brother, Gold Coasts’ Elijah, Oliver was a key part of the Country team, playing across all lines throughout the four quarters to prove himself a versatile and consistently impactful prospect. What was evident almost immediately with Hollands was his cleanliness with the ball and below his knees, able to take clean pick-ups off of packs, even when under pressure, and follow up with a clean handball to a teammate or kick forward. He looked at his best when he was attending centre bounces in the second half, where he just consistently got to the fall of the ball off the rucks’ hands, even when he had specific attention from Metro, battling for front position and putting himself in an area where he could run straight onto the ball and not worry about pressure coming from the other way. Had a few eye catching moments with his zip and agility away from stoppages, particularly with a moment in the second quarter where he got past two opponents with two side-steps, despite being right up on the boundary. It wasn’t all offensive from Hollands either having started the game on the wing, where he didn’t win a heap of it early, but still impacted with tackling and high defensive work rate, diving to smother a few kicks off the boot at times.

#6 Noah Long (Bendigo Pioneers)
23/08/2004 | 178cm | Inside Midfielder

Playing a style not too dissimilar to 2020 AFL Rising Star winner, Fremantle’s’ Caleb Serong, Long was a bull and consistent ball winner on the inside throughout the entire contest. One of the few players on ground to play midfield pretty much all game, it wasn’t hard to understand why the Country coaches wanted to keep him there as much as possible. Long won the first clearance of the day, setting the tone early with his ferociousness in the contest, pushing past opponents to get first hands on the ball. Unsurprisingly, as an insider midfielder Long’s hands in close were exceptional, able to quickly fire out handballs to release runners even when being brought to ground. Those quick hands translate to his kicking as well, able to pick the ball up off the ground cleanly and then put it on his boot in one action. Although at times his kicking was rushed and didn’t look pretty, he got distance behind it, pulling out the barrel a couple of times. He was part of the early scoreboard pressure Country applied in the third quarter, taking a contested mark above his head and slotting it from about 30 out, showing that when given time he can kick really well. Appointed the Country co-captain alongside Hollands, it was good to see him be directive and vocal with his teammates throughout the contest.

#11 Jhye Clark (Geelong Falcons)
23/07/2004 | 180cm | Inside Midfielder

Looking far more imposing than his 180cm frame would suggest, Clark was arguably the most impressive of the contested ball winning brigade for the game. At times looking like recent Geelong Falcons graduate Tanner Bruhn with his inside work and follow up clean ball use, it was truly amazing what Clark managed to do with the ball under so much pressure. Like a lot of inside midfielders, his quick handballing and cleanliness at ground level was top notch, picking it up with one hand under pressure at times, not being knocked off balance or brought down by heavy contact from opponents. His kicking was also impressively clean, whilst sometimes not pretty, it was always weighted well to the advantage of his teammates. One of his more impressive kicks came when he received a handball under pressure at the top of the centre square, stood up and broke free from a tackle, then composed himself and laced it out to a teammate laterally off one step, in front of him so he could keep his opponent away from it. He won a lot of clearances around the ground, with the one impressing the most being deep inside defensive 50, where he took the ball in the air off the rucks’ hands, at full stretch, and handballed off to a runner straight away.

#13 Zane Duursma (Gippsland Power)
28/08/2005 | 185cm | Medium Utility

Being thrown about positionally, starting in defence, moving forward and then getting on the wing, 2023 draft prospect Duursma looked classy and composed throughout, taking any challenge that came his way with both hands. What stood out most in his defensive role was his cleanliness at ground level and composure under pressure, taking the ball off the ground well and finding good options by hand, even in the middle of packs. There was one particular chain of play where he gave a handball off, got it back, and handballed again where the ball didn’t hit the target he wanted, but he won it off the ground in a pack and then handballed out to a runner. Duursma kicked a goal up forward in the second quarter that was as straight as you can kick a footy.

#14 Jonti Schuback (Gippsland Power)
18/03/2004 | 183cm | Half-Back/Wing

Schuback was a consistently classy user of the footy out of the backline and on the wing throughout the game. Being trusted with the kick-ins in the first and final quarters, Schuback would regularly run the ball out of the square a good 20 meters, and then kick it 40-50 out wide to give the Country defence time to reset, whilst often putting the ball in an area that his teammates could take advantage of and launch attacks. Schuback was proactive with switch kicks in the defensive half as well, running to spots just laterally or slightly behind the ball carrier to get free, mark it and launch it forward with his speed and penetration.

#16 Harley Reid (Bendigo Pioneers)
17/04/2005 | 182cm | Half-Back

Reid switch from his usual role up forward or on a wing to play in defence, and played the role well. The 2005-born speedster made life difficult for the Metro small forwards, with that speed meaning he could close down distance between himself and anyone going for a mark to get there and create a contest. Despite being one of the youngest on ground, he was one of the more effective ball users, extremely composed and able to put his kicks to the advantage of teammates up the line or on the short 45 options. It was clear the coaching team knew this as well, giving him kick-in responsibilities when Schuback wasn’t in the backline, where he also would run the ball out and kick long to advantage. One of the more impressive parts of Reid’s game was how strong his tackling was, taking on some of the 195cm plus prospects and bringing them to ground without any issue.

#22 Ned Moodie (Dandenong Stingrays)
31/03/2004 | 188cm | Medium Utility

Gradually moving further up the ground as the game went on, Moodie was particularly impactful when playing in the backline and midfield in the first half of the clash. His strength and consistency above his head were impressive, taking a few contested marks or holding bullet-like kicks that many others would have struggled to hold with one grab. He’d utilise this often in every position he played, with his patrolling of the centre corridor meaning he was used as an inboard option when he got free. He showed a good amount of game smarts, faking a handball to distract his opponent on the mark and then kicking long forward a couple of times. One such moment lead to Country’s second goal. He kicked a goal when up forward, managing to get free of an opponent and mark well in front. 

#30 Harvey Howe (Gippsland Power)
26/10/2004 | 200cm | Ruck

Just played an extremely consistent but pivotal role in Country’s early midfield wins, and continued to win hitouts as the game went on, even if Metro midfielders started to rove his taps. He battled well for front position around the ground and followed up on his taps when there weren’t any Country midfielders in a position to win it, where he displayed some good pick-ups at times.

Vic Metro:

By: Ed Pascoe

#1 Nick Watson (Eastern Ranges)
24/02/2005 | 168cm | Small Forward/Wing

The zippy small forward came in off a strong NAB League debut and showed why he gained Vic Metro representation despite his 168cm stature. The 2023 prospect from Eastern Ranges was a live-wire up forward, creating headaches with his speed and smarts around the ball. Watson is a natural footballer, knowing when to pop up at the right times and creating opportunities up forward with tackling pressure and timely smothers. He also has some nice athletic traits, jumping at packs for an unlikely mark or dancing around opponents with ease, highlighting both traits in the third quarter. Although Watson didn’t hit the scoreboard, a great smother in the third term set up one for his team – expect the scores to come as Watson has a nose for goals which he showed the week before at NAB League level.

#3 Blake Drury (Oakleigh Chargers)
11/01/2004 | 176cm | Midfielder

The Vic Metro captain set the tone early, showing great workrate and smarts through the midfield. The Oakleigh Chargers prospect is a smaller type at 176cm, but his stature didn’t effect his ability to win the hard ball at stoppages and win plenty of clearances as well. You could see why Drury was made captain, as he displayed workrate and toughness but was also vocal at stoppages and got around his teammates in that way. Drury was clean with the ball and while his disposal by foot was often pressured and not overly clean, with time and space he didn’t have many problems with his disposal.

#5 Kai Windsor (Eastern Ranges)
27/04/2004 | 178cm | Wing/Small Forward

Spending some time on the wing and then forward, the 178cm Eastern Ranges prospect didn’t necessarily win the most of the ball or kick the most goals, but he just showed little signs in every quarter that he is a player to keep an eye on. Windsor showed plenty of speed and workrate on the wing and often looked quick and composed with ball in hand, always looking to create. Windsor had some great plays in the third quarter, with a lovely mark inside 50 showing his prowess overhead and a lovely goal on the run after balking an opponent showing his craftiness.

#6 Cooper Harvey (Northern Knights)
12/07/2004 | 179cm | Forward

The son of a gun Harvey didn’t have a productive game for the first three quarters, but got off the leash in the last quarter,  kicking two goals by getting into good spots for some marks inside 50. He nailed his set shots, although he missed one of them he could have easily kicked it to finish with three late goals. The Northern Knights prospect is already a bit taller than his old man, Brent at 179cm and plays a different style. Hopefully gets a run in the midfield as well in the later games of these Under 17 championships.

#8 Darcy Edmends (Northern Knights)
28/05/2004 | 180cm | Wing

The classy wingman from the Northern Knights, Edmends was able to show his ability as a smooth mover. Although his disposal wasn’t to his best standards early on, he grew into the game and adjusted to the pace, and then his skillset really started to shine. As classy and smooth as he looks, he also showed a tough side to his game by going back with the flight to take a nice mark in defence in the second quarter. Although it wasn’t one of his better outings, Edmends still showed signs of his talent as the 180cm midfielder looks to have a strong championships going forward.

#10 George Wardlaw (Oakleigh Chargers)
18/06/2004 | 181cm | Inside Midfielder

The tough inside midfielder from Oakleigh Chargers took a little bit of time to get going but after half time he was right up there with Ashcroft as the most influential midfielder afield, with his desperation to win the ball and put on pressure a real highlight. Wardlaw showed plenty on the inside with his burst from congestion separating from the pack, but despite his contested nature was also composed with ball in hand and often released teammates into better positions. Wardlaw’s desperation was on display in the third quarter with a great second effort and smother, while also showing some great work in a marking contest against highly fancied player Ollie Hollands, convincingly taking the contested mark. It was a strong showing for Wardlaw who would add a goal as reward for effort in the last quarter, recieving the hard ball and settling to kick a lovely goal on the run.

#12 Will Ashcroft (Sandringham Dragons)
6/05/2004 | 183cm | Midfielder

The Brisbane Lions father-son prospect plying his trade at Sandringham Dragons showed why he is considered one of the best prospects for the 2022 draft with a dominant display in the midfield. Ashcroft showed a great mix of toughness, class and flashy play, with his toughness on show in the first quarter going back with the flight and getting back up quickly to go again. The second quarter is where he kicked his first of two goals with a lovely long range finish hard on the boundary which he would somehow outdo in the last quarter, bursting away to kick another long range goal. That same burst was a highlight in his clearance work too, which included classy clearances to go with some gritty bull-like wins. With 33 disposals, 11 clearances and two goals, it was by far the best performance not only for this game but for the whole Round 1 of the Under 17 championships.

#13 Paul Pascu (Calder Cannons)
20/08/2004 | 183cm | Medium Defender/Midfielder

The tough 183cm Calder Cannons prospect started strongly in defence, showing plenty of drive and taking the game on with ball in hand, while also attacking the contest in the air. Usually a midfielder for Calder, Pascu was able to show his versatility for Metro as a defender but he would go on to get some midfield time later in the game and showed how handy he can be in his preferred position. A great chase down tackle in the midfield in the last quarter and a strong shrugged tackle in the third showcased his toughness and willingness to take the game on. The powerful left-footer has started the championships strongly.

#14 Harry Sheezel (Sandringham Dragons)
13/10/2004 | 183cm | Forward

The classy and damaging forward from Sandringham Dragons was influential early on with a lovely rove from a forward stoppage, kicking a nice snap goal in the process, He showed plenty of agility whenever he had possession, getting around opponents with ease. Sheezel managed his second goal in the second quarter from a free kick, but his third in the third quarter was another special goal, roving a ruck tap and kicking the ball seemingly over his head. He had more opportunities to convert in the last quarter but he did well to set up others and provide a nice marking option as well. The 183cm prospect has a few tricks as a forward and is proving to be one of the more difficult match-ups in this year’s championships.

#16 Elijah Tsatas (Oakleigh Chargers)
18/10/2004 | 184cm | Wing

Returning from a collarbone injury earlier in the year, the Oakleigh Chargers prospect has been on the comeback trail, making his NAB League debut the previous week. Although the exciting midfielder excels at stoppages, he made the wing position his own, getting better as the game went on by using his speed and clean hands. The second half is where Tsatas really started to make an impact, offering plenty of run and carry and link up from half-back to half-forward. He also got to showcase his class, taking a running bounce and nailing a nice goal from 45m. Tsatas was at his damaging best in the last quarter with plenty of quality kicks inside 50 leading to goals, with Cooper Harvey the beneficiary on two occasions. A promising first up game for Tsatas, who can hopefully get some time in the centre in the upcoming fixtures.

Image Credit: Morgan Hancock/AFL Photos

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